05:37 AM EDT 03/19/2015
Originally posted 02/22/2009 06:25PM
In the poor rural village of Mirzapur, India, a 6-year-old girl spent her days sitting in the corner of her house ashamed because of her mouth.
"People stared and teased all the time," she told PEOPLE in her native Indian dialect through a translator. "They would call me 'hothkati' – meaning cut lip or the girl with the cut lip. I was never known by my real name," she said. But her name was Pinki Sonkar.
Pinki, now 8, is the unlikely star of Smile Pinki, a 39-minute documentary that chronicles her story from being hopelessly unhappy to being helped by plastic surgeon Dr. Subodh Kumar Singh and The Smile Train, who transformed Pinki's life. It was one of four films nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Short Documentary category, and Sunday night, the film's director Megan Mylan took home the Oscar.
Born with a cleft in her upper lip due to a birth defect, Pinki's life was bleak. At school she was shunned by the children and stopped attending. "I felt hurt and very angry," says Pinki. "I always wanted to know why I was different from others." At home she was also outcast by the villagers and her impoverished family could not afford the money for corrective surgery.
Originally posted 02/22/2009 10:25PM
In an emotional moment at Sunday's Academy Awards, Heath Ledger's family accepted the actor's posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as the Joker in The Dark Knight.
"Tonight we are choosing to celebrate and be happy for what he has achieved," said his mother Sally Bell, who stood alongside Heath's father, Kim Ledger, and sister, Kate, on the stage of Hollywood's Kodak Theatre.
Added Kate, in reference to Heath's 3-year-old daughter, who will inherit his Oscar when she turns 18, "We proudly accept this award on behalf of your beautiful Matilda."
Originally posted 02/22/2009 01:00PM
Producers are promising plenty of shakeups with this year's Academy Awards. They haven't announced the presenters in advance. And they've enlisted Hugh Jackman, known for his singing and dancing abilities, to host in lieu of a traditional comedian.
But the question remains: Will it be enough to net a major audience? With viewership declining, the Academy sure hopes so.
One thing is certain: If this year's nominees – including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Anne Hathaway – point to anything, there will plenty of A-listers walking the red carpet – not to mention some nail-biting races.
The Big RacesThis year's supporting actor categories offer real suspense. Will Heath Ledger pick up a posthumous Oscar for his memorable turn as the psychotic Joker in The Dark Knight? He's won plenty of trophies already this award season, but the late Ledger is competing against Milk's Josh Brolin, among other industry favorites.
Originally posted 02/21/2009 11:40AM
While the likes of Brad, Angelina, Kate and Mickey party-hopped through awards season, racking up accolades and air kisses on the road to Sunday's Academy Awards, Hugh Jackman's pre-Oscar dance card hasn't been quite as glam.
Tapped to be the show's 81st host and the second Aussie to do the honors (who can forget Paul Hogan's turn as co-host in 1987), Jackman has been hunkered down brainstorming material with a team of comedy writers and cramming back-to-back song and dance rehearsals.
"It's been hilarious," says the 40-year-old actor, who just last month wrapped X-Men Origins: Wolverine. "I don't know if the other billion people who watch it will find it funny but I'm finding it hysterical right now. I'm having the time of my life."
Originally posted 02/20/2009 10:00AM
The tragic death of Heath Ledger has, thanks to the actor's friends, turned into stroke of luck for one Australian actor.
On Thursday night, Oliver Ackland of Sydney became the inaugural recipient of a scholarship created in Ledger's name with support from friends like Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts and Ledger's former girlfriend, Michelle Williams.
"[Ackland is] a great actor and he's really likeable," Ledger's good friend and Ned Kelly director Gregor Jordan, a judge on the panel, told PEOPLE at the Australians in Film Academy Award Celebration in Los Angeles. "He's got [a sort of] Jude Law look. Maybe he's an Aussie Jude Law, who knows?"
Originally posted 02/19/2009 06:55PM
You wouldn't guess it from the sheer number of Oscar parties planned around Sunday's big show, but look closer and you'll see the effects of the economic recession in the theme and tone of many of this year's top soirees.
Using terms like "scaled back" and "quieter," organizers are just as likely to tout the scholarships the parties are benefiting or how green the events are as they are the menu and décor. In some cases both the guest lists and the swag are being pared down.
"This is the industry's big night and we can do it in a way that is reflective of the hard times going on out there," says Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the chairperson for the Governors Ball, the celebration immediately following the 81st Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 22.
But Hollywood being Hollywood, and this being the Academy Awards, the glamour will still be in big supply and the changes will be subtle.
Oscar NightSo while 1,500 of Oscar's closest friends will be enjoying the usual luxuries at the Governors Ball – Moet Champagne, Sterling wine, and a mostly organic menu from Wolfgang Puck – they'll do it in a subdued atmosphere that Isaacs calls "quiet and Zen-like". Rather than the usual flower arrangements, guests will be greeted by giant man-made Bonzai trees specially created for the event by Mark's Garden and listen to tunes spun by KCRW's Jason Bentley.
Originally posted 02/19/2009 05:25PM
Academy Award-winning actress Helen Hunt returns to the Oscars on Sunday – but not this time as a nominee.
Hunt directed a commercial for Frito-Lay's TrueNorth brand, which held a contest eliciting stories from people around the world who have discovered their own "true north" or passion in life.
The actress was drawn to the gig after completing her own passion project, last year's film Then She Found Me, in which she starred, wrote and directed.
"This came very out of the blue. I wasn't in the world of commercial directing, but it was really fun," Hunt, 45, a best actress winner for As Good as It Gets, tells PEOPLE. "Thousands of people sent in their stories of following their life's passion, and I was part of the group that chose this really fiery, passionate woman. I really felt inspired by her."
The 60-second ad features Lisa Nigro, an ex-Chicago police officer who founded Inspiration Café, which feeds and supports the needy.
Originally posted 02/19/2009 03:20PM
Second to the Super Bowl, betting on the Oscars is a gambler's favorite pastime, according to Doc's Sports Service, an online handicapper.
While Las Vegas doesn't post odds on the Oscars, due to Nevada Gaming Commission rules, offline betting services do, according to Doc's.
As for those favored to end up holding Hollywood's most cherished golden boy on Sunday night – ABC broadcasts the Oscars from the Kodak Theater starting at 8 p.m. – the good doctor recommends putting your money on the following:
Originally posted 02/19/2009 11:40AM
Moviegoers will be seeing less of Kate Winslet in the future.
While the actress has appeared nude in past films – including her Oscar-nominated turn in The Reader – she now says she is done disrobing.
"I think I won't do it again: A. I can't keep getting away with it, and B. I don't want to become 'that actress who always gets her kit off,'" Winslet, 33, told Time magazine for its new issue, on sale Friday.
Originally posted 02/18/2009 01:15PM
Heath Ledger's performance in The Dark Knight has garnered praise throughout the awards season.
And if the late actor wins the Oscar for best supporting actor this Sunday, his daughter Matilda, 3, has been named the eventual owner, according to the Associated Press.
Matilda is the only child of the star, who died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs last year. He was 28.
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